Addis Hearing Stage Sound Again

Concert business in Addis Ababa has been booming and getting the attention of music lovers as well as local and international performers. All was joyful before the bad news of a global pandemic kicked in. As has been the case for many other businesses in the hospitality sector, concerts and live events were banned from the public scene. Conflicts in the northern part of the country also meant that international and regional performers would not bet on visiting Ethiopia. Even when restrictions eased, it was not easy for these businesses to have showtimes. Slowly, but surely, the African capital is hearing the sound of musicians from live concerts again, writes EBR’s Trualem Asmare.

Of the many features of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa has been known for the promotion of concerts and other events. Before the pandemic, these events hyped-up particularly during holiday seasons, with promoters popping up presenting their shows from local and international performers. Concerts are not just entertainment for those who attend them, but a source of income for the performers, with organizers, venues, and other sideline businesses taking advantage of the crowds that attend these events.

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic has been anti-crowd and like many other nations worldwide, the Ethiopian government had to limit the presence of people in close proximity to themselves. The measures taken not only killed businesses, but also the sound of the live music that was coming out of the numerous concerts organized in Addis Ababa.

Pandemic and security challenges not only made it impossible to organize concerts, but also for the performers to visit Ethiopia. Concerts in Addis Ababa had been known for the presence of international musicians. However, in the past two years they struggled to take to the stage due to travel restrictions and bad PR against Ethiopia ensuing the conflict in the north.

For Ethiopian live music lovers, it was a double negative stroke as staying late at night in a time of war and conflict is not the best idea. However, following a respite and a sense of calm from both the pandemic and insecurity, the year 2022 seems to be witnessing the return of live concerts and other public events with a vengeance. Recently, Ereft music concert, Adwa African Music and Art Party, International Jazz Day Concert, Yenie Zema, and Zelan, among others took to various stages from Fana Park to Ghion Hotel to entertain concert-goers in their masses. Artists from the local hitmakers Rahel Getu, Dawit Tsige, and Yohanna to international stars like Protoje, Arrow Bwoy, and Diamond Platnumz took part in a golden season of concerts.

On April 30, 2022, Zelan Festival was held in Addis Ababa’s Fana Park located behind Millennium Park. The latter used to be a hot spot for concerts before the pandemic turned it into a high-security hospital for the treatment of Covid patients. For a ticket price of ETB500, Zelan attendants enjoyed performances from Grammy Award-nominated Jamaican artist Protoje while local performers like Hewan Gebrewold and Kassmasse also shared the stage.

“It was a very successful event,” Aynaddis Tesfaye, Production and Promotion Manager at Akawaba Entertainment told EBR. “The festival was attended by 8,000 people earning us about ETB3 million.”

Aynaddis attributes the success of the concert to the long-time ban on such events due to the pandemic and insecurity. That prohibition forced attendees to wait patiently and eagerly for such moments. When they happen, no one thinks twice to respond to the calls of the promoters.

Another concert was also held on a Saturday evening in early May at Mechare Meda, owned by MIDROC Ethiopia. The Sarbet area was filled with crowds cheering and singing along to their favorite songs with the front gates overwhelmed with lines of hundreds of people eager to enter. Security was tight and the large venue eventually could take in no more people wanting to see Dawit Tsige in his first concert after the release of his much-loved debut album.

“All concerts held after the lock down are successful,” Aynaddis explains. “It looks like concert venues are recovering, which is good news not only for the organizers, but also for other sideline businesses that benefit from these events.”

The fruits of the massive movement caused by concerts drips all the way down in the economy, giving additional revenue to those especially working on streets around concert venues. One beneficiary is Abel Mulugeta, alias, a 27-year-old Shoeshiner who also sells air time mobile cards, chewing gum, and other goods around Ghion Hotel.

“We might make twice or thrice the money we would earn on a normal day,” Abel explains, comparing his daily income to that of concert days. “When concerts and public gatherings were banned during Covid, we were deprived of that extra income we had been used to for a very long time.”

Ladies who sell fast food around Ghion Hotel also share Abel’s opinion, referring particularly to the Abren Concert which was held at Ghion Hotel on May 21, 2022. For them, business during concert days is a lot better.

Abraham Ayalew, Businessman, attended the recent Abren Concert on the gardens of Ghion Hotel—one of eminent concert venues in Addis Ababa with its lush greenery and open spaces. Tickets were being sold for ETB500 and ETB1,300 for VIP slots. The concert featured the veteran Ephrem Tamiru alongside Rahel Getu and Andualem Gosa.

“Tickets were reasonably priced and I was pleased to see a large crowd at a concert,” Abraham told EBR. It was not only pleasure for him though. There was also discontent.

There was a lot of pocket picking. Abraham claims he had to fight to save his phone, not just once but numerous times. According to him, concert organizers do not seem to pay attention to such matters. “If one buys a ticket for ETB500 and steals a phone worth ETB 20,000, it is a profitable business for the thieves,” Abraham complains. There must be tight security and the audience must be allowed to enjoy the moment free of these feelings of insecurity, Abraham strongly recommends.

According to industry insiders, there are several reasons for the success of the concert business in Addis Ababa. Firstly, the city has a large population of young music lovers. There is also already the culture of visiting live bands at the many bars and clubs that feature the entertainment type. Another reason is the strong tradition of musical collaboration in Ethiopia. Many musicians from different genres work together to create new sounds, and this creativity attracts international audiences. Addis Ababa is also an affordable city for international tourists with vast nightlife options. This makes it an attractive destination for tourists who want to experience African culture firsthand and attend a concert alongside. EBR

10th Year •June 2022 • No. 108

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